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Excerpt From 'Cooking With Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories From Tuscany to Sicily'

Once the dough was smooth and springy to the touch of a thumb, Carluccia and I rolled it into thick ropes and then thinner strands. We tore the strands into segments about two inches long, and sprinkled them with a dusting of flour. Then, one by one, for a good hour, we twisted our little pasta worms around stalks of grain, and rolled them out in confident strokes. We ended up with hundreds of filej.

Rolling soft spirals of pasta was both pleasure and necessity for Carluccia. Pleasure in that the family and workers always loved a meal of filej, dressed with tomatoes, or beans, or herby greens, and olive oil. And necessity because it was too expensive to buy a lot of pasta asciutta (dried pasta). Her family had grown varieties of wheat for generations; it was freshly milled, inexpensive, and made delicious pastas and breads. As a family they had always been, and still were, almost totally self-sufficient. Carluccia told me that the only things she buys are coffee, sugar, and salt. Even the soap she uses is made from last year's olive oil.

From Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily. © 2011 Jessica Theroux. www.cookingwithitaliangrandmothers.com

Read an interview with Jessica Theroux.

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